As the world continues to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many in the sports community have criticized Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert for making light of coronavirus concerns by purposely touching every microphone while leaving a press podium — an action that preceded him testing positive for the novel coronavirus and, in turn, setting off a sequence of events that led to the suspension of the NBA season.
“I feel like people are blaming him for a lot of things when, obviously he was a little careless at times, but who’s to say that’s necessarily the reason why that’s happened?” Green said in a FaceTime interview with Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report. “He probably should have been more careful, but it’s not all his fault.
“…you got to look at the positives in things. This was gonna happen regardless of whether it was gonna happen to him or somebody else. Somebody in the NBA was gonna catch the virus and give us a wake up call. I think it was needed. It was necessary for us to — not just for the basketball world, but for the rest of the world — to take it seriously.”
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 15, 2020
Shortly after Gobert’s positive diagnosis, the NBA enacted what has become a 30-day hiatus on its season. The NHL followed suit, putting its season on pause, and MLB pushed back its season’s start date by two weeks and cancelled the remainder of spring training. March Madness, the annual tournament of the NCAA’s finest college basketball teams, was cancelled, too.
“Adam Silver has made the correct call,” Green said. “NCAA’s made the correct calls, of cancelling games or postponing them. But this wouldn’t have happened if hadn’t Rudy caught it. So I’m glad things happened the way they did.
“Obviously the carelessness of it — I don’t think he should be blamed or bashed as much as he is. I mean, it could happen to anybody. …They’re showing clips [of Gobert being careless, touching microphones] but they can find clips of anything from any time — of him being careless, but I’m sure a lot people not just him, [too].
“…I think it’s something that, you know, not just the NBA needed, but the world needed.”
In addition to Gobert testing positive, Donovan Mitchell, his Jazz co-star, tested positive as well. Based on Mitchell’s most recent public update, his recovery is going well.
“I feel fine. Things are going well… Can’t wait to get back out there on the floor and play in front of the best fans in the world.”
An update from @utahjazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who tested positive for COVID-19.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 14, 2020
Members of the Toronto Raptors, who played Gobert and the Jazz prior to the NBA’s shutdown, also received tests for the COVID-19 virus. All of those tests came back negative.
In the days since his positive diagnosis, Gobert has openly acknowledged and apologized for the carelessness of his actions and hopes that people can learn from his mistakes.
“I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of concern and support over the last 24 hours,” Gobert wrote in an Instagram post. “I have gone through so many emotions since learning of my diagnosis… mostly fear, anxiety, and embarrassment.
“The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously. I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus.”
The following day, Gobert offered the first of what he said will be “many steps” he will take to help with the novel coronavirus pandemic, pledging Saturday to donate more than $500,000 to relief efforts.
That contribution includes giving $200,000 to part-time employees at the arena that plays host to Jazz games to help cover their lost wages, $100,000 each to assist families affected by the pandemic in Oklahoma City — where he was when the diagnosis came — and Utah, as well as 100,000 Euros ($111,450 USD) to relief efforts in France, earmarked for childcare assistance to health care workers as well as for caregivers to the elderly.
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, both worldwide and throughout the United States, there is currently no guaranteed timeline of when any of the major professional sports leagues will return to action.
Despite Green’s ability to find the silver lining in the way Gobert’s diagnosis ushered in a new level of awareness regarding COVID-19, he was open about the frustrations of being away from the game he loves, too.
For Green, one week without basketball when your whole life revolves around the sport is a difficult adjustment.
“I think, you know, a week away from basketball for us is like a long period of time,” Green said. “Obviously it’s still fresh, it’s only a couple of days, but a week from now, guys are gonna be very bored and not know what to do with their idle time. They want to get back in the gym and play.”
Amid the uncertainty, the former member of the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors is choosing to stay present and focus on the moment directly in front of him.
“It’s not something you think would ever happen,” Green said. “It’s kind of like a bad movie or nightmare. …It’s tough to swallow. It’s tough to believe. But we’re here now. We’re taking it a step at a time, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. And getting updates as often as we can, and figuring out the necessary steps to move forward and get things back to normal.”